MTA Initiates 'Essential Service' Plan Reducing Service Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Steve Burns
March 24, 2020 - 4:29 pm

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The MTA will be implementing an "essential service" plan that will reduce service in wake of drastic drops in ridership, but keeps mass transit running for first responders, health care personnel and other essential workers amid the coronavrius outbreak.

The MTA has experienced never-before-seen ridership lows with subway ridership down by 87%, buses by 70%, Metro-North by 94% and the Long Island Rail Road over 71%.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye said the reduction in ridership preserves social distancing for customers and employees and the new service plan aims to advance the governor's goals of flattening the curve and slowing the spread of the virus. 

  • Starting March 25, subway operations will preserve AM and PM peak service, but B, D and Z trains will not run Monday through Friday. Some express service will also operate locally. Subways will run about 75 percent of the normal service
  • Starting March 26, the MTA will retain about 75 percent of normal bus operations
  • Starting March 27, the LIRR will adopt a new schedule preserving about 65 percent of overall daily service. The LIRR will have over 500 weekday trains running, compared to a typical weekday of over 740 trains. Trains in the peak hours will continue to run.
  • Also starting March 27, Metro-North will provide hourly trains on the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines with more frequent service during the peak hours. A reduced schedule will be implemented on weekends. Beginning the weekend of April 4/April 5, Metro North will provide hourly service while also suspending shuttle service between Wassaic and Southeast on the Upper Harlem line.
  • The paratransit program has eliminated shared rides in accordance with the recommended public health guidance, and extended eligibility for existing Access-A-Ride customers. 

More details are expected to be released on the MTA's website.

Foye insists there are no plans to shut down service.

"We're not shutting down, we're not going anywhere," Foye said. "The MTA is working around the clock to provide essential service to the heroes on the frontlines of this pandemic crisis."

He is urging customers who don't need to travel should stay home, adding staying home will help save lives.

Earlier Tuesday, some crew members stayed home out of an abundance of caution and others have already become sickened by the virus. Officials said Tuesday that 52 MTA workers have tested positive for coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the agency cut B train service, 6 train service and 7 train express service as a result of the staffing shortages.

“The MTA is under tremendous pressure,” Daniel Pearlstein with the Riders Alliance told WCBS 880’s Steve Burns.

Essential workers are still using the MTA by the thousands to get to and from work.

“Over 2 million people are still using the subway/bus systems and that is primarily essential workers,” he said.

The MTA is losing $100 million a week, and advocates like Pearlstein, along with the MTA itself, are putting their hopes on a bailout from Washington.

The MTA disinfects its stations twice daily and continues daily sanitization of its fleet of rolling stock with the full fleet of train cars and buses disinfected every 72 hours or less. The Access-A-Ride dedicated fleet is disinfected daily.